How do YOU see the world?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 23rd, 2010 by abarlow3

Chapter 7 discussed the topic of discourse analysis. In the most basic simple terms discourse analysis is how we see the world, why we see it that way and how we act upon that way of thinking. Discourse analysis has its differences and similarities to each of the methodologies we have examined in previous chapters. Content analysis can be used to examine a large group of images as can discourse analysis. However, discourse analysis is much more flexible because it allows your materials to guide your investigation rather than vice versa and it does not rely solely on quantitative methods. Like semiotics, discourse analysis can be used to examine what is embedded in the image through what is known as “intertextuality” which is, “the way that the meanings of any one discursive image or text depend not only on that one text or image, but also on the meanings carried by other images.” However, semiology is focused solely on what is underneath the surface of an image and the arbitrary relationships of symbolic representation. Discourse analysis is much more concerned with what is on the surface of an image, and how we react to it, rather than what is underneath it . Psychoanalysis is concerned strictly with the unconscious and how it effects individual interpretation and meaning. Although discourse analysis does focus on individual interpretation and meaning it also examines social difference and construction. Basically, discourse analysis is the loophole in the world of examining imagery. The downfall to discourse analysis is knowing where to stop. Discourse analysis is so broad and can allow for so many connections to be made that one can end up over examining. Over examination results in weak connections and poor results that are unrealated to the original topic.

As designers, discourse analysis is extremely important because it examines images on an entirely different level than the previous methods of examination we have studied. Discourse is an extremely volatile thing because it changes with every person. Discourse is the “particular knowledge about the world which shapes how the world is understood and how things are done in it.” We as people are products of discourse and consequently so “are objects, relations, places, and scenes: discourse produces the world as it understands it.” Thus we come to the issue of power and how much power discourse has over us and the images we create, examine and interpret. Therefore as designers discourse analysis is imperative because it helps us make connections. These connections give us power because they help us understand a specific way of thinking that we may not have understood before. tremendously

Discourse analysis is the wild card of image examination. In many ways you use your own discourse to find discourse. There really is no right or wrong way to do it. It does not require extensive background knowledge or the use of a calculator. Discourse analysis on the image of the water flame led me to some interesting results. Many people are drawn to fire, flames and lighters. I am not saying that the world is filled with pyromaniacs. I know a number of individuals that own a zippo lighter with no use for it whatsoever. They do not smoke, they do not go camping and they not set off fireworks on a daily basis. Why do they have a zippo lighter? Zippo lighters are aesthetically pleasing and they are fun to play around with. They also produce a flame, as do all lighters that work properly. If someone hands you a lighter you are going to trigger the flame at least once or twice because there is something oddly fascinating about it. Therefore, to take a flame and make it out of water, the very substance used to put flames out, would trigger a whole new level of fascination. The water flame is a visual oxymoron and it therefore should not make any sense. However, the water flame makes perfect visual sense and plays off an obsession that already exists. Pyromaniac or not, flames are cool.

Analyze Your Inner Psycho

Posted in Uncategorized on October 19th, 2010 by abarlow3

     Chapter six discussed the topic of psychoanalysis. The first part of the chapter focuses heavily on Frued’s theories surrounding scopophilia, subjectivity, unconcious, sexuality and castration complex. The second part of the chapter focuses on Laura Mulvey’s theoires surrounding Frued’s work and how his thoeries effect the way we view movies and images. I feel that psychoanalysis does have an effect on the way we view certain films and images. 

     When we as people watch films we, most of the time, do not psychoanalyze them. We do not question why we feel certain emotions toward certain characters, or how specific scenes are carefully constructed to evoke a certain kind of emotion. But unbeknownst to us as the movie audience all of these things are occuring because, “Films manipulate the visual, the spatial and the temporal and, as Laura Mulvey says, by ‘playing on the tension between film as controlling the dimension of time (editing, narrative) and film as controlling the dimension of space (changes in distance, editing), cinematic codes create a gaze, a world and an object’” (page 108).  Mulvey makes a solid argument about film in general. Although Mulvey’s theory does not apply to my specific scene from the movie V for Vendetta, her theories do apply to the movie has a whole. There are numerous scenes where the dimensions of time and space are manipulated. As a result the character Evey Hammond is seen as a women in distress that is saved by the more dominant and powerful male known as V.

     According to Freud we begin to develop our sexuality when we are infants based on the castration complex. “Masculinity is constituted by the boy-child feeling threatened by the father with castration if he does not give up his closeness to the mother” (page 113). Femininity “is produced by girl -child seeing themselves as lacking – as already castrated – and transferring their attachment from the mother to the father” (page 113). Mulvey argues that Frued’s thories could be accurate if he was refferring to a visuality rather than vision.  Mulvey discusses how “The boy child must already be seeing through a visuality that asserts that the masculine position is to look, the feminine is to be looked at, and that the feminine is to be seen as lacking” and argues that, “visuality is structured in this gendered way” (page 115). As a result we view characters as “active/male” and “passive/female”.

     Out of Mulvey’s theories on the castration complex came the concept of “voyeurism” which is “a way of seeing that is active; it distances and objectifies what is looked at.” In other words, it places the spotlight on the active/male role while leaving the passive/female role to be either punished or saved. In V for Vendetta this concept is illustrated. The character Evey Hammond who is playing the passive/female is both saved and punished. The spotlight is placed on the active/male role V because he is not only the hero to the people, he is also a hero to the girl. V for Vendetta is one of countless films where the idea of gendered visuality and traditional roles of masculinity and femininity are expressed.

     It is interesting how we as movie watchers and interpreters of the visual do not always notice the way films manipulate time and space to evoke a specific mindset. However, when we really begin to analyze films we begin to see how the idea of sexuality and the castration complex come into play. Although I do not agree completely with all of Freud’s theories, I do think there is some level of truth to some of them. I agree with Mulvey’s theories on the way we view femininity and masculinity, and why we view them the way we do. Sexuality is a huge factor when it comes to visuality and that is something that cannot be ignored.

What’s the Hidden Message?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 5th, 2010 by abarlow3

When it comes to the examination and interpretation of images there are numerous forms of analysis. Three examples are compositional analysis, content analysis and semiology. Although these methods do share similarities they are also very different in both their approach and analytical methods. Compositional analysis is the examination of an image’s formal compositional elements. It relies heavily on the background knowledge and critical thought of the viewer. Content analysis is a much more research based method. It often examines a large body of images, and it uses quantitative methods to deduct meaning. It requires no background knowledge, and can be done by following a step-by-step procedure.  Both content analysis and compositional analysis are great methods to use when examining images. However, they really only examine what is on the surface of the image. Semiology examines what is “embedded” in the image. What we often do not see or think about is the river of social practices and stereotypes hiding underneath what makes up the images and advertisements we see on a daily basis.

In the scene from the movie V for Vendetta there are several signs that play an important roll in the overall effect of the scene. Two such signs include the mask that the character “V” wears, and the falling dominos. This scene is a very dramatic and chaotic and it is a crucial part of the movie. In many ways it sums up the entire movie into one scene. The mask that V wears is a sign throughout the entire movie because it never leaves his face. Therefore, you are constantly reminded of the symbolic meaning behind it. In the movie, the mask is given power and meaning through association, stereotyping and social understanding.  The falling dominos are another sign representing V and his ideals. They stand for social injustice, inequality and the power that lies in the hands of people when they unite behind an idea.

At the beginning of the movie V for Vendetta a story is told about a man by the name of Guy Fawkes who attempted to blow up parliament on the fifth of November in 1605. The character Evey Hammond states at the beginning of the movie, “We are told to remember the idea, not the man, because a man can fail.” In the movie the country of England is being controlled by a semi-totalitarian government on it’s way to becoming a completely totalitarian government. The mask V wears was made to look like the face of Guy Fawkes and therefore represent his ideals, which were to live in a country that recognized and respected the power of the people. As stated before, V never removes the mask. The mask gains power and meaning because of the story and stereotypes surrounding Guy Fawkes that have been passed down in England for generations. Throughout the entire movie you are constantly reminded of what V is after. After all the dominos have fallen the camera shows V and he gives a subtle nod looking directly at you. The shot is entirely black except for the white face of the mask leaving you once again to think about who Guy Fawkes was and what he did.

This scene in V for Vendetta flashes back and forth between the falling dominos and images of riots and war. The falling dominos are the most dominating element in the scene. The fact that they are falling adds to the chaotic feeling that the scene emits. Dominos are associated with the “domino effect“ which can be associated with losing control. The domino scene is meant to illustrate what happens when people unite behind an idea. The effect is a “domino effect”. At the end of the scene all of the dominos fall together and there is one left standing. The one domino is representative of the idea, which is the backbone of the revolution. It shows the power than one idea can have.

Alan Moore, the creator of V for Vendetta, could have chosen any mask. Instead he chose to use the face of Guy Fawkes, a revolutionary. Using just any mask would not have had the same effect on the viewer or the concept. The stereotypes associated with Guy Fawkes bring power, meaning and particular ideals together behind a mask. As a result, V becomes the ideals making him more than just a character and a man. The same principle applies to the dominos. Any other object other than dominos would not have illustrated the concept. Dominos are associated with the “domino effect” which was needed to foreshadow the pandemic events that would take place. An image can have an entirely different effect when you begin to examine the “embedded” meanings. As designers we must be aware of this when we are designing and interpreting because in order to achieve the perfect effect there has to be a subconscious balance between implicit and explicit meanings.